Free contraception helps Finland reduce teenage abortions by 66%

By Thomson Reuters Jun 3, 2024 | 5:14 AM

By Anne Kauranen

HELSINKI (Reuters) – The number of teenage abortions in Finland fell by 66% between 2000 and 2023, its public health institute THL said on Monday, attributing the reduction to the offer of free contraception to adolescents and compulsory sex education in schools.

Finland also passed a law in 2022 liberalising abortion, at a time of deep divisions over abortion rights in Europe and court rulings in the U.S. that restricted access to terminations of unwanted pregnancies for millions of people there.

The number of abortions among women under 20 rose during the 1990s in Finland, which led the Nordic country to respond at the start of the 2000s by making morning-after pills available without prescription from 15 years of age and sexual education compulsory in all schools.

“We can assume that sexual education plays a significant role,” THL’s research professor Mika Gissler told Reuters, adding that increased access to contraception from a young age was another factor behind the change.

The number of abortions per fell 66% to 722 in 2023 from 2,144 in 2000 among all teenagers aged 19 or younger in Finland, while the drop was even steeper at 78% among those under 18 in the same period, THL’s statistics showed.

“Since the latter half of the 2010s, the decline in the number of young people’s abortions has also been influenced by the introduction of free contraception in many welfare regions,” THL wrote in a report.

A much smaller decline was observed in the number of abortions among Finnish women of all ages over the past two decades, although their number increased modestly — by 2.9% — from 2022 to 2023, THL’s statistics showed.

Under the 2022 liberalisation, Finland from September 2023 stopped requiring women to give a reason for having an abortion, making it available upon a pregnant person’s request during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.

THL said it was too early to conclude whether the legislative change, which took effect last year, will have an impact on the number of abortions.

(Reporting by Anne Kauranen in Helsinki, Editing by William Maclean)